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Violinist Lisa Batiashvili to Release Visions of Prokofiev on February 2

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Violinist Lisa Batiashvili to Release Visions of Prokofiev on February 2

15 January 2018 (Toronto, ON) – Today Lisa Batiashvili announces her latest album, Visions of Prokofiev, set for release on February 2 via Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Canada, the country’s leading music company. Devoted to music by Sergey Prokofiev, the album bridges the gap between serious and popular music of the early 20th century. Visions of Prokofiev features Prokofiev’s two violin concertos - completed in 1917 and 1935 respectively and long-since established as classics of the 20th-century repertoire – alongside three much-loved excerpts from the composer’s stage works in arrangements by Lisa’s father, Tamás Batiashvili. The Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Yannick Nézet-Séguin accompanies Lisa’s violin on the album.

In Soviet-era Georgia, Prokofiev was considered one of the foremost composers of the 20th century. As well as being widely performed throughout the country, his music was on the curriculum and therefore formed part of Lisa Batiashvili’s earliest musical memories. When she moved to Germany in 1991, it was Prokofiev’s music that shaped her as an artist. In her earliest days at the Hamburg Musikhochschule, Mark Lubotsky set her to work on the “First Violin Concerto”. Although Batiashvili, then twelve years old, did not immediately grasp the powerful gestures and suggestive theatricality of Prokofiev’s early work, she did familiarize herself with the concerto. As her career developed, she began programming it on significant occasions. Now a piece whose style she can fully identify with, it has more or less become her calling card.

“Although 15 or 20 years ago the ‘First Concerto’ wasn’t as popular as it is today, I played it in major competitions and made a number of debuts with it,” says Batiashvili. “It has a tenderness and dreamy detachment about it that I find hugely fascinating. Prokofiev clearly has endless ways of conveying the fragility and vulnerability of human experience. And yet everything is so close to being expressed in a genuinely Classical manner. The concerto’s closeness to ballet and the theatre is, of course, a result of Prokofiev’s gift for defining individual roles and characters with the most succinct and beautiful musical themes.”

There are palpable, if informal, connections between the two concertos and the three perennial favourites from Prokofiev’s ballets Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella and his early opera, The Love for Three Oranges, here heard in arrangements created by the violinist’s father, Tamás Batiashvili. “The first time you hear it, the ‘Second Concerto’ might seem rather more conventional and calculated than the ‘First’. But the wonderful second-movement cantilena, for example, is a close relation of the ‘Love Theme’ from Romeo and Juliet. What Prokofiev does in the ballets is directly reflected in the character of the concertos. Conversely, the best numbers from the ballets are so rounded that they work even when they’re removed from their theatrical context.”

Above all, as Batiashvili explains, Prokofiev is a composer “who truly combines East and West, and whose music therefore has a sense of timelessness.” The formal language of the German instrumental tradition, a feeling for colour nurtured by French Impressionism, and, finally, that combination of intense melodiousness and thrilling rhythmic energy typical of Russian composers since the mid-19th century all come together in Prokofiev. In 1917, the year of the October Revolution, he left Russia to seek his fortune in the U.S. and Western Europe. By 1936 he had become an international celebrity but the economic situation in the West had worsened dramatically. Overwhelmed by homesickness, he returned to the Soviet Union. There he became a prominent servant of an authoritarian system, acclaimed and reprimanded by turns. As fate would have it, he died on the same day as Stalin in March 1953.

Lisa Batiashvili, herself an emigrant, is another musician who naturally combines Eastern and Western influences. Although she still has strong ties to her native Georgia, and regularly returns to Tblisi to visit friends and relatives and give concerts for her compatriots, she regards herself as a European. Batiashvili lives in Munich with her French husband and her children who were all born in Germany. She is no longer forced to choose one country or way of life over another – her cultural influences can coexist and complement each other.

The same is true of her artistic life. Like many instrumentalists trained in the Russian tradition, Batiashvili is fundamentally a Classicist. Clear proportions, elegant lines, the beauty of restraint and as seamless and natural a development as possible are more important to her than virtuosic excess or striving after effect for its own sake. These are qualities shared by the players of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, making them the perfect partners for Batiashvili on this recording. The members of the COE, among the finest musicians in the world today, represent many different nationalities – a positive example of European pluralism. They come together every year for a limited period to work on chosen projects with leading conductors, such as Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Lisa Batiashvili has also played many an important concert under Nézet-Séguin’s baton and is delighted to have had the opportunity of working with him again here. “His way of making music is so natural, and at the same time so moving,” she explains, “that you feel as though you’re dealing with a force of nature. As far as I’m concerned, this orchestra, Yannick and I together make an ideal artistic team.”


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